Bloomberg News

Google Loses Bid to Keep E-Mail Out of Java Patent Case

October 20, 2011

(Updates with e-mail recipients in third paragraph.)

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. lost a bid to keep an engineer’s e-mail saying the company should negotiate a license for the Java programming language out of an Oracle Corp. lawsuit alleging Google software infringes Java patents.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who had said at a July hearing that Google would be “on the losing end of this document” at trial, ruled today in San Francisco that the electronic message isn’t subject to attorney-client confidentiality protection. He included the text of the e-mail in his ruling today.

“We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need,” Google software engineer Tim Lindholm said in the 2010 message to a company lawyer and Andy Rubin, who was vice president in charge of the company’s Android operating system for mobile devices. Rubin is senior vice president of Google’s mobile division.

Lindholm’s e-mail said he had been asked by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google co-founders, to “investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android.” Oracle could use the document to convince a jury that Google knew it was infringing patents on Java when it used the language to develop its Android, now running on more than 150 million devices.

Oracle, which acquired the patents when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc., sued Google last year claiming Android infringes Java technology. The Redwood City, California-based company is seeking at least $1 billion for lost license fees and other damages and a court order that could block sales of Android devices.

Mistakenly Provided

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said drafts of the e-mail were mistakenly turned over to Oracle during document exchanges. Google took them back and sought to seal portions of hearings where the e-mail was publicly discussed, saying they were confidential attorney communications. A magistrate judge ordered Google to produce the e-mail and make Lindholm available for questioning in a deposition by Oracle.

“We think there is value in the negotiation to put forward our most credible alternative, the goal being to get better terms and price for Java,” Lindholm said in the e-mail. Google ultimately declined to license Java. Oracle sued Google six days after Lindholm sent the e-mail, according to Alsup’s ruling.

Google has denied infringing Oracle’s patents.

Jim Prosser, a Google spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment about Alsup’s ruling. Deborah Hellinger, an Oracle spokeswoman, declined to comment on the decision.

The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 10-03561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

--Editors: Stephen Farr, Peter Blumberg

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha in San Francisco at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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